The University of Virginia Medical Center recently was named as the first winner of the Sustainability Award from the University HealthSystem Consortium -- or UHC -- a national organization of academic medical centers.
“U.Va. Medical Center is committed to being a careful steward of our resources as we provide high-quality care to our patients,” R. Edward Howell, the Medical Center’s vice president and CEO, said.
UHC highlighted U.Va.’s commitment to sustainability, its development of ways to measure progress toward its sustainability goals and its communication efforts. In recent years, the Medical Center has taken several steps to operate in a more sustainable way.
The Medical Center is a strong participant in University-wide recycling efforts; between January and June, it sent an average of 72,000 pounds of paper per month to U.Va. Recycling. In addition, approximately 1,000 pounds of plastics, metal and glass, and approximately 55 cubic yards of loose cardboard boxes are collected each week.
In addition, the Medical Center:
- Builds environmentally friendly “green” buildings. All new buildings at the Medical Center are required to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified. The Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center achieved a LEED Gold certification.
- Participates in the Local Food Hub program. The Medical Center and its food and nutrition services contractor, Morrison Management Specialists, work with the Local Food Hub to serve local food and set up seasonal farm stands in Medical Center cafeterias. In 2011, the Local Food Hub awarded its Institutional Leader Award to the U.Va. Health System for its “commitment to local agriculture through menu planning and food service offerings, thereby increasing the overall demand for local food, enhancing community access, and supporting local economic and agricultural development.”
- Runs the Reusable Office Supply Exchange. Instead of buying new office supplies, such as binders and folders, ROSE encourages employees to collect and redistribute surplus office supplies.
- Is changing landscaping practices. The Medical Center has reduced the number of annual plants used in favor of perennials and native plants, which use less water. Recycled water is used for plants on Medical Center and University grounds.
- Uses environmentally friendly cleaning practices and products. For example, the Medical Center has started using no-wax floors, which can be dry buffed instead of using harsh chemicals to strip and wax the floors.
- Operates the Medical Equipment Recovery of Clean Inventory program. Recyclable medical supplies and equipment are sorted and distributed for a variety of uses, including free clinics and medical mission trips. From 2008 to 2011, more than 200,000 pounds of medical supplies were distributed through MERCI.
- Shuts down computers automatically in office buildings during off-peak hours to reduce energy use. The initiative has reduced the Medical Center’s energy bill by almost $57,000 annually, along with its carbon footprint.